Mark Reads ‘Going Postal’: Chapter 5, Part I

In the first half of the fifth chapter of Going Postal, Groat worries; Horsefry worries even more; and Moist goes on a journey of discovery. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Trigger Warning: For brief talk of anxiety


I said this on video, but Groat’s long monologue is kinda like how my anxiety works. I’ll think something might be bad, and soon after that, I’ve gone down a logical path that involves everyone I’ve ever known being so greatly disappointed in me that I’ll want to perish just from the shame of it all. It’s very much a mental and emotional avalanche on my part, and I’ve had to develop techniques to counter these sort of spirals. (Mostly it involves me imagining positive outcomes.) I know that’s probably not what Pratchett intended here, but I still found it to be something I could point to at another time to say, “Hey, this is sort of how my brain works at any given time of the day! ISN’T IT FUN.” 

But Groat’s worry over his probational period as Senior Postman had one really, really important detail that I am reading as foreshadowing for what happened later in the chapter:

“He can try walking the Walk,” he said. “No one can argue if he walks the Walk.”

He did it, right?

Crispin Horsefry

You know, for a paranoid crook, Horsefry is abundantly organized, isn’t he? I still find it funny that he noted down every single way that these men cheated out the system, and his logic is weirdly sensible? Now they know all the tracks that need to be covered! Of course, in the wrong hands, it’s also a list of countless crimes, so there’s that. 

But I found this entire scene—which subtly switches from Crispin’s POV over to Gilt’s—to be a creepy examination of Reacher Gilt’s character more than Crispin Horsefry. He’s a smaller part in this, and Gilt knows that. There’s a sense of supremacy that pervades Gilt’s thoughts, and he sees himself as above everything happening around him. Which isn’t surprising—I noted before that he was very clever, and it still worries me as he tries to take on Vetinari. (Only a little bit, and only because of who will be collateral damage when this is all over. I don’t doubt that Vetinari will come out on top, but who else will have to pay the price?) Gilt and people like him believe they have the answer to the world’s problems, but it’s a mask on a greater issue: they believe they deserve what they steal from others simply because they’ve taken it. And I can see the arrogance all over this character! Look how willingly he thinks about killing Horsefry because he’s both annoying AND a “lesser” person than Gilt is. There’s an hierarchy of humanity within Gilt’s system of belief, and he sits firmly at the top of it. 

I really do feel like Gilt, in part, is a satirical reference to Ayn Rand and objectivism, and there are just too many little details for this to all be a coincidence. Gilt is openly selfish and proud of it; he believes government and publicly-owned organizations are a scam; he is hypnotic in his ability to convince others that his way of thinking about the world isn’t just right, but a moral imperative. His theft of the clacks system feels perfectly in-line with the libertarian thought that often goes hand-in-hand with Ayn Rand fans. Everything worth existing should be owned, and that owner should always profit off of it, no matter who is harmed by that act. 


The Vision

It wasn’t until Moist began to “see” the letters that I began to formulate a theory about what’s actually happening at the post office. I’m still not sure I have enough pieces yet, so I don’t think this fits everything. Plus, I went into this expecting that Moist would find the people that live on the roof, and another secret of Groat’s would be discovered. BUT OH LORD, THAT IS NOT WHAT HAPPENS AT ALL. Even if this is not the “Walk” that Groat referred to earlier, I still believe that what Moist experienced was something akin to a test. 

If I accept that the letters are so desperate to be delivered and read, then it makes sense to me that they can collectively create a glimpse of an ideal situation. The glory days of the post office that Moist sees are folded over actual reality, and it reveals how all the previous postmasters died: they were unable to handle the two realities existing at once. One misstepped and plunged down the stairs. Another had walked out into a balcony that simply wasn’t there. And the other had experienced the pure horror of a “ghost” of a memory walking through their own body, and that had scared them to death. 

So why? Why did this happen? Why is the past folded over the present? Well, I think Moist “seeing” the letters and realizing they’re practically alive is the key. These letters were created with the belief that they would be sent and then read. Well, on the Disc, belief is a powerful force, and it makes an unsettling sense that these letters, all abandoned together, have manifested some odd powers. (The whispering is them, right???) So, what if they’re trying to find the right person to deliver them and return the post office to its former glory???

If that’s the case, then the next question is: Why Moist? What makes him unique, so much so that he’s the only postmaster to survive this experience? Well, I have to go back to Groat’s anxious monologue. Because he notes that Moist ACTUALLY DELIVERED A LETTER. I’d be willing to bet that EVERY past postmaster found the fifth floor WITHOUT delivering any mail. Moist has an advantage, right? And maybe, just maybe, the letters wanted to test Moist just a little bit more. 

I also can accept that this wasn’t a test—I don’t think the letters are sentient, for the record—so there’s still something cool in this. If not a test, this scene works as a testament to Moist. Here’s someone who has always existed in two realities at once. He has to in order to pull off the many, many cons he’s completed in his lifetime. Doesn’t that take seeing one world laid over another one? And perhaps that is one of the reasons Vetinari chose him. I wouldn’t put it past Vetinari to know everything going on in the post office, you know?

Ah, I need more. THIS BOOK IS SO GREAT.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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